Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Mass and other thoughts

I read a comment in this post on Ukok's blog that stated that "I was raised Catholic but lost interest in the church as a teen because it wasn’t relevant to my life. (That and the fact the Bishop was known to make the best martinis around.) In my 30s I came to know several Godly people who lived in a relationship with the risen Christ. That was something I’d never seen or even heard of in catholic school. I became a Christian and began to learn about that relationship. Worship services were just that - worship - and not cold, dead liturgy."(emphasis mine)

I have been thinking about this statement a great deal. This person has gone on to become a protestant who believes in sola scriptura and sola fide.

He continued on: "The nail in the coffin in my relationship with catholicism came when I went home for my father’s funeral. There was a memorial mass and the family sat together. At communion time, the priest became every emphatic that communion was only for ‘true believers’ and was therefore closed to non-catholics.
It would have been a wonderful tribute to my Dad and his faith for the family to share the Last Supper as Christ shared it with His disciples.
Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians has nothing to do with catholisism (which didn’t even come about until a few hundred years later.) Rather, he is getting to the heart issue. Those without a holy relationship with Christ, who still carry unrepentant attitudes, have no business sharing the Lord’s Supper. But for the rest, it is indeed open to all who believe on His name."

He tells us in another comment that most Catholics (Roman Catholics, that is) do not know how to pray anything but rote prayers and that at a conference his wife attended, the Catholics who were present had to be taught what to include in a "spontaneous" prayer.

I am saddened by this man's comments for myriad reasons. The comments about rote prayer saddens me because it shows very clearly how poorly catechized many Catholics are. As part of the Charismatic renewal in the early 80's, I was part of a wonderful Catholic youth movement called Teen Encounter. We learned that Christ was our friend if only we would let Him be. We learned to speak to Him as though He was sitting next to us. In Leadership Training, we learned Church History. We read the Bible, although mostly the New Testament. It was a wonderful experience, but it stopped as soon as you were no longer a teen, or in my case, when you married. There simply was nothing available for young adults to keep them involved with the church or their faith. I find this remains true even now. I know that Cursillo is available, but it is my understanding that you have to be able to get away for an entire weekend at the onset of involvement in Cursillo. I know this is difficult for many.

I am next saddened by this man's obvious interpretation of scripture without any body of authority. He argues that Paul's words in 1 Corinthians do not refer to the Catholic Church. He means this passage: 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 to which Ukok referred in her original post.

The commenter stated that he believes Christ's words in regard to the Eucharist are meant figuratively. Frequently Christ's words in scripture are figurative, but He speaks in parables and uses similes e.g "The kingdom of God is like..." When Christ says to disciples "Take and eat, this is my body." Matthew 26:26b He does not say that the bread is like his body, but that it is
His body.

This man says he "lost interest" in the Catholic church because it "wasn't relevant" to his life. This is a struggle we all must face in keeping our children active in our faith. We must instill in them a love for the Lord, and a respect for the church. I know that as a child growing up post Vatican II, I was not taught that we were created to "know, love and serve God." Reading the old Baltimore Catechism with my own children has helped me to understand the fundamentals of my own faith. I do not know how old this man is. I do understand his frustration with his own formation and I am saddened that he has apparently never met any Catholics who demonstrated godliness.

What saddens me most about this man's posts, though, was this comment: "I became a Christian and began to learn about that relationship. Worship services were just that - worship - and not cold, dead liturgy."(again, emphasis mine)

This was my response to the "cold, dead liturgy" portion of his comments: "I find it rather disturbing that you refer to the Mass as “cold, dead, liturgy.” The Mass is made up, from beginning to end, of God’s sacred word. We pray, and we read scripture. even the “rote” prayers (eg. The Lord’s Prayer…see Mt. 6:9-15) come from scripture.
I would like to finish with this: God’s word is alive, not dead. If you are truly a “Bible believing Christian,” liturgy should not be something you perceive as dead. "

I feel so very deeply about this, yet I do not seem able to communicate to my own children just how alive the Mass is. I know my husband does not really like all the "standing, sitting, kneeling, standing" as he puts it. I cannot articulate the whys of the liturgy at this point. I just know how my heart overflows during the Mass.

Ukok's post was titled "Why Protestants can’t receive Communion in the Catholic Church." Catholics are not supposed to partake of "communion" in other churches, either. This was not really discussed in Ukok's post, although I believe it was mentioned in passing. The same arguments that are stated against Protestants receiving in the Catholic church can be used when referring to Catholics not participating in the protestant "communion." The greatest of these arguments is "Why would you want to participate in something that you do not believe in?" As Catholics, we believe in transubstantiation. That is a fancy word that means we believe that Christ is present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. Protestants do not believe this. They believe that the bread and wine remain bread and wine and that they are only symbols of the last supper. As a Catholic, why would I want to participate in that? It is so totally incomplete. If I want to just break bread with friends, I will participate in an Agape (Ah-gah-pay) meal, or I will participate in a Lord's Day celebration with friends ushering in the Sabbath. Both of these things very much resemble what many protestants consider communion. If I want what many protestants call "worship," I will go to a Charismatic prayer meeting. I don't need my music to be loud rock and roll type music in order to consider it to be worship. To be honest, I do find that type of music wonderful for praising God but, to me, worship is quiet and respectful.

That is all I have to say on this tonight, but I imagine these topics will continue to haunt my heart and mind for a while.

Dear Lord,
Thank You for the beauty of Your word. Thank You for giving me Your living word, and for giving me the church as authority in interpretation. It is comforting to be able to go to the church fathers for guidance when I have a question regarding Your word. Thank You for the Eucharist. Please help me as I prepare YDS for the reception of Your holy sacraments. Help me to guide him toward reconciliation through Confession and toward the reception of his First Holy Communion. Please prepare his heart. I ask you, too, Lord to bless all those who participated in the discussion regarding reception of the Eucharist over at Ukok's blog. It has been thought provoking, and has stirred my heart to be closer to You. Please continue to clear all the garbage out of my heart so that there is more room for You, Lord. I desire closeness to You.



Katy said...

What an interesting and well thought out post. In my opinion, a person's interaction with a particular church is what makes them pick a denomination. The church community is what makes or breaks a church.

Not sure if that makes sense or not.

Thank you so much for sending all those prayers my way.


ukok said...

Good post!

Lorna and I did bash heads over Catholics not receiving 'communion' in non Catholic Churches, I offended her particularly when I said that it would mean no more to me than eating a piece of toast, to eat communion with her in her non Catholic church.

I thought it best to stay on track with the post-topic after that! For the purpose of the post I think it was the best thing to do.

Anonymous said...

it is our own personal relationship with The Living God that matters ....keep on witnessing sister :-)